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IBM tool targets data compliance

Big Blue, eager to cash in on recent data-handling rules, is set to unveil a device that aims to help clients comply with regulations.

IBM has unveiled an all-in-one device that aims to help clients comply with data-handling rules.

The company announced Thursday the Data Retention 450, a product that combines IBM server computers, storage and software in a secure cabinet. The machine, which will compete with similar products from rivals EMC and Network Appliance, is designed to help companies preserve information in keeping with a host of new laws such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which are intended to prod companies to adopt better data-handling practices.

The new machine can preserve information according to prescribed time periods as well as through what IBM calls "event based" records management. This feature helps organizations in situations in which the precise retention period is unknown, IBM said. For example, because mortgages with 30-year terms can be paid off at any time, the retention period for such data could be based on the event of the payoff.

Nancy Marrone-Hurley, an analyst at Enterprise Storage Group, said the IBM product is part of its comprehensive compliance offerings. "It really fills out IBM's portfolio of tools," she said.

Storage specialists Network Appliance and EMC have similar products on the market. Network Appliance's SnapLock software is designed to work with the company's disk storage systems to help organizations satisfy record-retention requirements. The company also allows for tape backup of the data.

EMC sells a storage device called Centera designed to facilitate compliance with regulations. The product offers ease-of-management features and can be expanded to a capacity of multiple petabytes, according to EMC.

Dianne McAdam, an analyst at research firm Data Mobility Group, said one difference between the IBM product and the EMC gear is that EMC's is designed to keep data on disks, while Big Blue's allows customers to retain data either on disk or magnetic tape. "It's a more flexible offering," she said. The Data Retention 450 also permits information to be stored on optical discs, according to IBM.

Both IBM and EMC are going after a healthy market due to the recent regulations. In a recent study by investment firm Credit Suisse First Boston, about 77 percent of chief information officers surveyed indicated some level of increased IT spending in 2004 based on regulatory requirements. Data backup and recovery was the most frequently cited item for increased spending.

The Data Retention 450 integrates pSeries Power processor-based servers with FastT storage and new IBM Tivoli Storage Manager for Data Retention software. The system can be shipped with as few as 3.5 terabytes and can be expanded up to 56 terabytes, IBM said. It works with a number of storage tape products, including non-IBM equipment.

IBM said the Data Retention 450 will become available in March. Pricing for the product will start at $141,000.